“Signore, ti amo” (“Lord, I love you”, in Italian). These were the last words of Benedict XVI, in the presence of a nurse, a few hours before he died on Saturday at 9:34 in the morning, three days after his successor, Pope Francis, asked the world for prayers for health of the pope emeritus, who was "very ill" at 95 years of age. Thus ended the era of the pope who will go down in history for having been the first pontiff to resign in more than 600 years, after nine years of a quiet retreat in the Vatican gardens reading, writing and, before losing strength, playing the piano.
The news shows the Holy See before an unprecedented situation. It is the first time in modern history that a non-active pontiff has died, which is why it will be the first time that a funeral does not involve a conclave. Rome is preparing for funerals that will set a precedent for what the future will be like for popes who resign from now on. Everything will depend on two things: the will of Benedict XVI himself and the decisions made by his successor, Francisco, who will officiate the funeral that will take place next Thursday, January 5, at 9:30 in the morning in the square. of San Pedro.
Little by little, the unknowns surrounding the German pope's farewell are clearing up, as he said that he wanted solemn but sober ceremonies, following the discreet style of the theologian. Yesterday, his mortal remains rested in the chapel of the Mater Ecclesiae monastery, in the Vatican gardens, where he died and where he has spent the last years of his life since he resigned from the papacy in 2013. A very different scenario from that of his predecessor, John Paul II, which was exhibited in the Clementine room of the Holy See, where he was honored by the Roman curia and the main Italian authorities.
The first images of the burning chapel leave important messages in light of the open debate on whether it was appropriate for a resigned pope to wear pontifical vestments. In the end they opted for a middle path. Joseph Ratzinger wore the red chasuble and miter reserved for pontiffs. But he was not adorned with the papal canopy and the pastoral cross, unlike his predecessors, who did wear the ornaments that symbolize the power of government. His shoes were not burgundy, another papal symbol, but black. He was placed on a catafalque covered by a red velvet cloth and two cushions, next to the nativity scene, a Christmas tree and a huge crucifix.
The first person who went to the monastery after his death was Pope Francis, as confirmed by the spokesman for the Holy See, Matteo Bruni. Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who had given instructions to be informed immediately of his situation, received a call from Georg Gänswein, Benedict XVI's loyal personal secretary, to notify him of his death. So, in just ten minutes, the Jesuit pope went to Mater Ecclesiae to pray over his body and give a final blessing.
The Pope also conveyed his condolences to the people who were present during the death: Gänswein, the four consecrated lay women of the Memores Domini institute, belonging to the Communion and Liberation movement (who have taken care of him and the domestic chores in his last years) , two doctors, two nurses and their German secretary, Sister Birgit Wansing.
This morning his body will be transferred to Saint Peter's Basilica so that the faithful who so wish can say goodbye to him. Around 35,000 people are expected to attend the funeral chapel, and another 60,000 to attend the funeral. Contrary to expectations, only those from Germany and Italy have been invited as official delegations, while the rest of the authorities who wish to attend must do so in a private capacity. After the Eucharist is celebrated, the coffin will be taken to the crypt of Saint Peter's Basilica for his burial together with the other popes.
In the celebration of the first vespers of the end of the year in the Basilica of Saint Peter, Jorge Mario Bergoglio expressed his gratitude to his predecessor, whom he defined as "noble and gentle". “We feel in our hearts a lot of gratitude, gratitude to God for having donated it to the Church and to the world, and gratitude to him for all the good he accomplished and, above all, for his testimony of faith and prayer, especially in recent years. retired life," he said. Yesterday, in the first public appearances of the year, the Pope remembered him again and entrusted him to the Virgin.
The Holy See has also released the spiritual testament of Benedict XVI, a brief document dated August 2006, at the beginning of his pontificate, in which he asks for "heartfelt forgiveness" from all those whom he "could harm in his life". and has a special request for all the faithful: “Stay firm in the faith! Do not let yourselves be confused! ”, He writes in the text, published in German and Italian.
The writing is also a defense of the Catholic faith in the face of philosophical or scientific interpretations that seek to appease it, alleging that after sixty years as a theologian he has seen theses that seemed irreducible fall. He cites the liberal generation –emphasizing the names of the German Protestants Adolf von Harnack and Adolf Jülicher–, the existentialist –Rudolf Bultmann– or the Marxist generation. In his opinion, it often seems that the natural sciences and research "are capable of offering unmistakable results in the face of the Catholic faith", but he says that he has been able to see "the transformations of the natural sciences since ancient times" and later "verify as, on the contrary, apparent certainties against the faith have vanished, proving to be, not science, but philosophical interpretations only apparently linked to science”. Finally, Benedict XVI says goodbye asking to pray for him. And he ends: “So that the Lord, despite all my sins and inadequacies, welcomes me into the eternal home. To all those whom he has entrusted to me, day by day, my prayer goes from the heart ”.